|The Regional Impacts of Climate Change|
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9.3.2. Terrestrial Ecosystems
Although significant land clearance has been a feature of many small island
states over decades of settlement, extensive areas of some islands still are
covered by forests and other woodlands. For instance, forest and woodland cover
in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Dominica, and Fiji is more than 60% of the
total land area (see Table 9-2 and Annex
D, Table D-7).
It is possible that tropical forests will be affected more by anthropogenic forces than by climate change per se, as long as deforestation continues at its current rate (IPCC 1996, WG II, Box 1-5). Tropical forests are likely to be affected more by changes in soil water availability (caused by the combined effects of changes in temperature and rainfall) than by changes in temperature alone. Forests are particularly vulnerable to extremes of water availability (drought or flooding) and will decline rapidly if conditions move toward one of these extremes. Increasing temperature and extreme events also may increase the incidence of pests and pathogens, as well as the frequency and intensity of fires.
On the other hand, increasing amounts of CO2 may enable some forest species to use water and nutrients more efficiently (IPCC 1996, WG II, Section 1.3.7). CO2 fertilization may have the greatest effect in the tropics, where it may lead to a gain in net carbon storage in undisturbed forests, especially in the absence of nutrient limitations (IPCC 1996, WG II, Section 1.4.3).
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